Wait, what? There’s community theater in English in Jerusalem?
I found myself hanging out just on the very edge of a fascinating and beautiful community. One I didn’t even know existed. How did I find out? Well… I married an actress.
But if it weren’t for that, I may have never noticed it was there.
The community is thriving, with over ten companies and a wide variety of shows performed every year.
But like anything else in the world, there’s room for improvement. And certainly room for expansion.
Why Jerusalem Community Theater?
People get involved in Jerusalem’s community theater groups for all sorts of reasons. According to CB Davies, the founder of JET, “Some people were involved in theater at some point in their life and want to do it again. Some … love the show … and so want to be a part of that … [and] there are those who want to continue to do theater and use their skills.”
However, it’s the social aspect that intrigues me the most. According to Rivka Deray, JET’s Content Manager, “It’s an incredible way for people, especially new Olim [immigrants], to find a community and create a social circle in Jerusalem.” She adds that, “New people join all the time, and there are people who always welcome them in and make them feel at home.”
There are many great adjectives people use to describe this community. The community is welcoming, diverse, and extremely supportive. Davies says, “We’re very multicultural. People join from all parts of the world.” And Marty Weisel, founder of JET Venues and a member of JET’s content team, says, “The best thing about the community is the people … surrounding myself with friends who support me and care about me.”
Room for Improvement
But as with anything great, there’s always space to grow and develop. And there are those working tirelessly to take this hidden gem in Jerusalem and make it even better.
Some speak about taking the performances and bringing them to the next level of quality. Weisel says, “The productions given by the community are incredible, however … there is always room for improvement. There is so much talent in the community … and we need to find the way to raise the standards all the time.”
Davies wants to expand the community, a suggestion that means a lot to me personally. I love theater. And yet I lived in Jerusalem for over a year without even realizing there was community theater at all, let alone in English. Davies wants to see the theater community “marketing itself better, reaching out to bring more people into the community, giving more people a chance to perform or use their skills [and] training.”
Some ideas are simpler, just to add a little pizazz to what exists. Deray offered a novel suggestion. She would like to see annual award ceremonies to celebrate some of the most impressive accomplishments in the community.
However, the most common sentiment was that despite everything amazing that’s happening, a certain level of unity is lacking. “I would love to see it better integrated,” says Deray. “I’d love if there was a more interconnected system where any company could receive supplies, funding, etc as needed.”
Davies would also like to see a stronger “connection between the different companies.” He states that “they all give something different to the community, but in the end we are all the same artistic community.”
They believe the community is made up of multiple disparate parts, each one great in its own way. However, when the groups can come together under one banner, the potential is limitless. The whole will be far greater than the sum of each of its parts.
JET (Jerusalem English Theater)
And that’s where JET comes in. JET (Jerusalem English Theater community) was created to foster unity, and give all of its members everything they could have ever hoped for. “JET’s goals are to create a single place for companies to lean on,” says Deray. “Whether that is by providing locations, or advertising for all upcoming performances and auditions, or helping companies coordinate show schedules to avoid event conflicts. We want our site to become the Google of Jerusalem community theater, where people who aren’t as familiar yet can go to one beautiful website and find out all they need to know about upcoming performances and how they can be a part.”
It would be “a website that brings all the community into one place”, according to Davies. Replete with “blog posts to let people see what happens behind the scenes, promote the community, and let people express themselves.”
And part of the greater overall vision is to not only have a website, but an actual physical location (JET Venues). “A space that is geared towards performing arts”, says Weisel. “By having classes and opportunities available all the time … actors can hone their craft … and do what [they] love all year round.” Davies sees JET Venues ultimately as “a place that the community can call home for its artistic endeavors. This hopefully will allow artists to emerge, create, and bring new material and stories to Jerusalem”
And, of course, for the overall benefit of the community, everyone would love to see more and more involvement from a wider array of people. “I would love to see the theater community circle expand ever greater,” says Deray, “becoming home to more and more people and talents.”
Jerusalem Community Theater… is a Potato Chip
Davies says about much of these changes and developments, “I think in a way it is happening already, but I’d like to see more of it.”
Jerusalem Community Theater is a gem, hidden in plain sight in Jerusalem. It’s growing and improving all the time. Nevertheless, some folk want and need more. And they’re working to make that a reality.
Ultimately, Jerusalem’s theater community is a joyous one. “The shows themselves are like potato chips”, says Deray. “Once you’ve experienced the incredible feeling of putting your all into a production, working with and getting close to friends, old and new, you just have to come back for more.”
Yup, a fantastic community. However, there are a handful of folk out there hoping the community sees days with more, even tastier chips.
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